Don’t be complacent with your marketing development

Andy Grant discusses his marketing learning journey and why you should embrace personal development

As a marketer I am always learning.  Even with 20 years B2B marketing experience, as the saying goes, “you are never too old to learn”. After a solid last 12 months of GDPR consulting, I now find myself very calm and confident when I present because I know the subject.  I can anticipate the most common questions; I know that the advice I provide is accurate and will really help the business that is asking the question. By taking the time to research and understand a given subject, I know that I am “a bit of an expert” (Peppa Pig reference, be thankful if it doesn’t mean anything to you) on GDPR.

This was not always the approach I took in my learning journey.  I remember my early days as a young marketing executive at Avaya fresh off the plane from Australia. I always resisted the dreaded annual personal development conversation with my manager (Dave Davies). I would say “It’s a waste of time” and “I don’t need to fill out a piece of paper to say that I know what I am talking about. I don’t need a training plan, I will learn everything that I need to know in my role.”

Rise to the unexpected challenge

I was never one to conform to the HR documentation requirements. It’s easy for me to look back now and remember that when you are just starting out, you believe that you are untouchable and able to take on any challenge. This might be true in some cases, but eventually a situation or a request from your boss or customer will require new skills or approach that you currently do not possess. This is where the benefits of training and the development of new skills, personally and professionally are essential.

About four years ago I decided to start playing tennis.  I had not really played before but I wanted a sport that would help me maintain fitness and that would also be enjoyable. Another reason for choosing tennis was that my son started playing at the age of three, and I wanted to be able to play a decent game of tennis with him as he got older and eventually better than me. Now, at seven years of age he is well on his way to beating me in a match before he is 10.  The difference between us as tennis players is that from the beginning my son has been coached by a professional tennis coach.

Equip yourself for success

He has learnt how the correct techniques, the best grip, the best body position and the best way to strike the ball, place it into the other court and win the point.  I, on the other hand, played some tennis with my sisters growing up, at school during PE lessons and then 20 years later when I decided that tennis would be my get-fit game and was a much better option than going to the gym.  I have not actually been taught how to play. The result is that my son is a young tennis player and I am a social tennis player.

So where do you start if you want to become a better B2B marketer? Tap into your desire to learn and ask your manager to help plan your professional learning journey. Employers need to provide their staff with the essential tools to help them to fulfil their role, to develop personally and learn new skills. This is essential to help them move to the next stage of their chosen career. By agreeing a training plan, you have a goal with objectives. It is easier to reach a target if you know the direction you need to travel. You are also likely to reach that target more quickly if you know what skills you need to learn and master.

The future of B2B

But how can you access training and why is B2B marketing training so important? In the 1990s when I completed my business marketing degree, digital marketing wasn’t a concept, let alone a subject. So, think about your career over the next five to 10 years - what will the B2B marketing landscape look like and what skills will you need to stay relevant and enjoy your role? Do you really understand the capabilities of martech, ABM and social selling and what it means to those people that you are trying to target and convert? What skills would you like to learn, or do you need to learn something totally new to make your current role easier?

Over the years I have had to learn new marketing skills to adapt to the requirements of prospective employers and then latterly to keep on top of new initiatives – like GDPR. Listen to your peers, they might know a thing or two that could be useful in your own personal development. Thanks Dave.